Beyond the its famed Hundred Islands, Pangasinan still has hundreds of natural endowments. Check out the 7 places you can visit when in the Western Luzon province.
Summer might be officially over, but that doesn’t mean beach bumming and out of town trips need to come to an end. On the brighter side, the month of July might even be better because there (at least in theory) would be less people on the road to holiday destinations, hotels and resorts have “lean season” rates and the sun isn’t as excruciating as Don Johnson’s The Long Hot Summer.
Among the easier beach destinations a few hours away from Manila is Pangasinan, which can now be easily reached with the recently-opened Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), making the province’s interior towns and lesser-known attractions more accessible.
The pre-colonial empire province of the legendary Princesa Urduja, the province is a vast expanse of 44 towns and four cities scattered into 5,451 square kilometers, extending from the foot of the Cordillera mountain range to the West Philippine Sea.
There is so much to uncover in this getaway beyond the famed Manaoag Shrine and Hundred Islands National Park.
Here are some of the off-the-beaten path wonders of this countryside playground where summer seems to be eternal.
This municipality is largely known as a pit stop when buying dried fish and local food products at the roadside stalls. But with the recent opening of the cozy Masamirey Cove Resort in the town’s picturesque and serene cove, there’s a reason to linger a little bit longer in Sual.
This bucolic seaside town is noted for its vast salt beds, but what makes it more enticing is the Dasoland Family Adventure Park, a 408-hectare eco-tourism destination set in a remote orchard of some 3,500 mango trees.
Dasol also has a heritage park with a series of gardens and topiaries, a Christmas Village, swimming pools, an artificial lake for boating, and mini galleries of curio items from yesteryears.
At the Dasoland Zoo, you can have up-close encounters with flamingos, the “roaming” camels, feed the ostriches, pet the people-friendly deers, or feel regal for a day while riding horses. It also houses two of the rarest, endemic crocodiles in the archipelago.
This agrarian town became the center of flower power last February when Allied Botanical Corp., a leading Filipino seeds company, opened its 2.1-hectare Sunflower Maze, made with 8,000 plants. The three-hectare farm also features different vegetables, from staples to rare varieties, some of which are products of their own research and development.
Visitors can harvest their own fresh crops from the edible landscape, with the farm’s pick-and-pay scheme. The first of its kind in the country, it is now an accredited Day Farm by the Department of Tourism.
An old settlement, which the mighty Agno River and Agno Bay were named after, this town is home to Sabangan Beach, where the iconic geological formation called Umbrella Rocks stand proudly. These mushroom-shaped boulders dotting the mouth of the Balincaguing River were formed over time by the lapping of tidal waves against the shore. In addition to the picture-perfect rock formations, Sabangan is also noted for its long fine grey beaches, and an old lighthouse which affords you a panoramic view of the bay.
This once obscure town is predominantly known as north Luzon’s “goat capital,” owed to its wealth of goat farms where you can buy live animals if you intend to go into backyard livestock raising, or enjoy their fresh meat. Their annual Goat Festival held every March is a feast for one of the most tender meats you can sink your teeth in, and a showcase of culinary talent where participants display their creative takes on goat dishes.
More recently though, Balungao has made its impression on adrenaline junkies with the Balungao Hilltop Adventure, which boasts of a dual zipline (620 meters and 1.4 kilometers [one of the longest in the country]), an ATV trail, a bungee trampoline, and a hot and cold spring.
As a side note, the town is where you can find one of the tastiest tupigs you can find, the local grilled sticky rice delicacy.
With the rough, lengthy roads leading to it, Cabongaoan Beach is one of the best-kept secrets playgrounds of the province. What’s unique about this beach is the so-called “Death Pool,” a small deep tidal pool that forms whenever the crashing waves come in, while just a few meters away is the Date Pool, a smaller dipping pool minus the heart-pounding thrill. The coastal area is punctuated with jagged rockscapes and beige-colored sandy beaches for a lazy stroll.
Also within the town is Sangbay Falls, which boasts of a tall drop and deep icy basin for lazing around.
Pangasinan’s charming capital town, Lingayen takes pride in its eclectic blend of urban living and rural charm. You can stay at the provincial government-run Capitol Resort Hotel, which has a mid-sized swimming pool, restaurant, and driving range with a view of the Lingayen Gulf.
The resort is also within walking distance of spic-and-span heritage edifices such as the Provincial Capitol, Sison Auditorium, Princesa Urduja House, Aguedo Agbayani
Park, the Capitol Park along Maramba Blvd., and the Veterans Park, where Gen. Douglas McArthur and the Allied Forces landed in 1945 to liberate Luzon from Japan. The complex is acclaimed as the country’s most picturesque government office and has become a showcase for guests.
For a glimpse of Lingayen’s checkered past, swing by the recreated birthplace of former President Fidel Ramos, the Bengson Yuzon Ancestral House, the Epiphany of Our Lord Church and its massive Spanish bells, and the Casa Real – the colonial-period capitol building.
If you’re in town, check out the baywalk, which stretches to the adjoining villages, is ideal for jogging, biking, aerobics and beach recreational activities, while El Puerto Marina Resort and Spa, a Balinese-themed accommodation and the Aquatica Marina Water Park, are the only one of its kind in the province.
For souvenirs, shop at the public market for bagoong (fish paste), as well as agricultural produce and delicacies from all over the province.
By BERNARD SUPETRAN